Imagine: Art is Child's Play, BBC1
A Century of Fatherhood, BBC4

Yentob's heads up on the artist's inner child

It's always a touch bruising to the ego to realise that, though the specifics vary, our most significant childhood memories find uncanny parallels in those of the next person.

Unless the next person is the artist Tracey Emin, who was among the YBAs reminiscing about the creative impulses of their salad days in Imagine: Art Is Child's Play.

Apparently a pre-teen Emin made miniature scenes from old shoeboxes, building bars out of cotton reels with drinkers clipped from the pages of magazines. Wait a second, I did that! And so did a million others, I expect, but none of us is likely to be hailed an artistic genius (or even decried as a fake). And therein lies the fuzzy logic of the programme, which presenter Alan Yentob promised would explore the link between children's play and adult art.

Play during childhood, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips reminds us, is a serious business. It's how we negotiate our early encounters with the world, testing the boundaries and finding the limits – a practice all the artists interviewed agreed was not unlike their creative process. That's a virtue if you are Picasso and spent "four years learning to paint like Raphael and a lifetime trying to draw like a child", or a flaw if you are standing in Tate Modern opining that your four-year-old could do that.

So, the interesting question here was why, when the rest of us have put away childish things, artists are able – compelled, even – to continue to explore in this manner? Yentob's trips down memory lane with Emin, Grayson Perry and Gavin Turk et al were entertaining and I must admit that my play-post offices were mundane in comparison with Perry's complex, combative relationship with his childhood teddy Alan Measles. But the how and why of artists' capacity to maintain a part of their brain free from received inhibitions and conclusions remained mysterious (though Emin suggested that a couple of bottles of wine before a studio session might be key).

It's unfortunate that, as the face of the arts on the Beeb, Yentob manages to combine the flaws at both ends of the genre's spectrum, being off-puttingly highbrow without serious depth. Here he achieved self-parody to such an extent that I began to wonder if they just filmed him nodding sagely and chuckling conspiratorially and then spliced it together with footage of the artists chatting away.

Childhood memories also provided a way in to A Century of Fatherhood, the first of a three documentaries tracing the role of fathers over the past century.

The thesis – that dads in the olden days were either cold, distant tyrants or boozy wife-beaters – was laid on a bit thick and Charles Dickens was rather unfairly held up as chief literary perpetuator of the stereotype.

Dickens's work is, if anything, ambiguous on the subject of father figures and the programme could have benefited from a little more of that tension. Nobody can seriously believe that every Edwardian father was a frigid automaton, but nor are we going to buy that they were all lovely cuddly daddies.

Still, the sugary voice-over couldn't spoil some brilliant first-hand testimonies from men and women who grew up in the first decades of the 20th century and spoke with still-raw emotion about fathers lost 60 years ago or more.

Touching on the social upheavals of war and a changing economic and industrial landscape, the programme left you with a strong impression of the very particular violence with which male roles have been buffeted over the course of the past 100 years. Above all else, however, it was a warm, and occasionally very painful, portrait of familial love.

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick